Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Day with a Birding Guide

After seeing what I could here at Sashatamia, I decided I needed to hire a guide to see more of the area birds. The day started before daylight to get to the Cock-of-the-Rock Lek. Silly me, I thought that was the name of a place instead of an actual bird. I had a choice of walking about 5 minutes to one lek where we would have good views at about 10 meters or walking 1 hour and 20 minutes to a blind where we would get within about 1 meter. I choose the shorter walk. We did get some good views of this marvelous grey and red bird displaying in the tree. We were joined by a family with four girls, the oldest about 8 years. The girls shared two pair of binoculars and kept very quiet, something not all young children would be able to do in such a situation.
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

After the viewing, we returned to the road and walked about a mile to where our vehicle had been moved. Along the way we saw several more birds including a lyre-tailed nighthawk that was so far away and blended so well, I could not pick it out with my binoculars until I had first seen it through the scope. The guide shared the scope with the girls who were delighted.  We ended at a small stream where we were able to see a relatively tame yellow-breasted antpitta. These rarely seen birds are very skittish. They usually fly away as soon as they see a human nearby. Their coloration helps them blend in with their surroundings making a sighting even more unlikely. This pair has lost some of its fear with the knowledge that food is available from one of the guides.
Yellow-breasted Antpitta

From there we went to Milpe Cloud Forest Preserve which has several miles of good birding trails. We spent about 3 hours there wandering up and down. The best bird there is the club-winged manakin, which we got to see displaying as it tried to attract a female. The manakin does two clicks followed by a single tone. While singing the tone, it lifts its wings in a striking pose. When a female arrived, it began to hop along the branch and move flit from branch to branch. Unfortunately for this bird, the female decided to wait for a better offer.  Overall, we saw 36 birds there including four new hummingbirds.
Club-winged Manakin performing
Club-winged Manakin
Spotted Woodcreeper

We took a taxi to lunch in Los Bancos high above the river. Excellent food at a very reasonable price are accompanied by birds at the feeders. The restaurant has trails through its property making it a great place to stop for a bite. Alex Luna, my guide, said that all the birdwatchers stop there to eat. We saw a few more birds there include the tiny Banaquit feeding with the hummingbirds at their feeder.

Bananaquit at the hummingbird feeder

After lunch we drove through the town of Mindo and up the hill. Mindo is a bustling tourist center with lots of activities beyond birdwatching. Many of the restaurants and hotels have birdwatching in their names. Other activities include zip lines, tubing down the river, and taking a cable car to trails where you can view several waterfalls.
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
We drove up out of town about three miles where the driver let us off to walk the road for the next three hours. We saw 25 more birds along the road including my first toucan, trogan, aracari and quetzal. These are four of those big colorful birds, along with parrots, that we all want to see when we come to the rain forest. About 5:00 it started to rain a bit and Alex asked if I wanted to call the driver. Since we might still see more birds, I agreed to continue walking. I’m glad we did because it was on that part that we saw the golden-headed quetzal and another ten new birds. It was worth getting a bit damp in the misty rain for that.
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

About 6:00, the driver picked us up and we returned to town where Alex left us and the driver returned me to the lodge for a shower and dinner. I was totally pleased with Alex as a guide. He absolutely knows his birds being able to quickly identify almost every bird he saw, in many cases at a glance while I was still figuring out the shape and color, never mind the shape and size of its beak or the color of its wing bars. Even so, there were birds he refused to identify because he could not get a look at the specific part of the bird’s anatomy that would absolutely confirm the identification. He was adept at using the laser pointer now used by bird guides. His email address is if you want a great help when visiting this part of the world. 

No comments:

Post a Comment